The Assassination Attempt on Daenerys
Episode 1: ‘Valar Dohaeris’
This scene was one of the few scenes we shot in Essaouira in Morocco, right by the coast. There was a fish market right next door, so it was a very interesting day filming. It’s an interesting place to start with Dany, because she’s really up against it, and must get her army together. We had a very nice-looking bug on a stick, which was creepy, but yes, the bug was CGI. One of the most exciting bits about filming Dany’s storyline is I get to look at the final product and see if my imagination was right. You always have that nervous point of, “Maybe that expression wasn’t right? Maybe it was a friendly bug!” [Laughs] But this season is an example of a huge character arc for her, in terms of what she starts with, and what she finishes with. It’s been a slow build with her, and I think that’s what’s given her the strength to achieve what she’s managed to achieve.
Daenerys Haggles for Slaves, Gets Cursed Off by Kraznys
Episode 3: ‘Walk of Punishment’
That was fun to film because you’re filming it going, “The audience is going to get in an episode that I get what’s going on.” It’s the first scene where Dany is really the only one who knows what’s going on; she’s all by herself. Dany has had a lot of practice with putting up with crap. She had to put up with her brother for a long time and he was a serious asshole. The great thing about playing Daenerys is that she does use her femininity to get a leg up on the strong men that are around her. Because she’s a woman, and she’s been a version of a slave herself her entire life—because she’s been at the mercy of her brother, who sold her to Drogo—she has learnt to take what was a scary, naïve, bad thing in the beginning, which was the ability to not stand up for herself, and now has added that element to her maturity. In Season 2, Dany wasn’t patient at all—and learned her lesson—but now she’s patient, and has the maturity of someone Cersei’s age, but with dragons!
Daenerys Exacts Her Bloody Revenge and Gets Her Army
Episode 4: ‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’
There’s this brilliant film studio in Ouarzazate in Morocco—it was the set that Kingdom of Heaven and other movies were filmed on—and basically it’s just a big ol’ desert with a bunch of different sets that you can transform. There was no dragon there and all I was holding was the handle, so you have the handle and the place where you’re told to look for the dragon, and you just hope you’re looking in the right place! That took a few days to film, and was definitely one of the most epic scenes to film in the Dany storyline. People always ask me what it’s like to film with absolutely nothing there, and it’s been with the character for so long that three years in—like the different languages—it all just makes sense. My brother was being such an older brother and was like, “Why do you speak better in Valyrian than you do in English?” The first half of filming the scene was pretty easy, where I prove that I do speak Valyrian, and then the Braveheart-style speech at the end… I love horses, I definitely can ride a horse in a field averagely well, but me on a horse with a lot of extras and a lot of cameras, while speaking Valyrian, I felt like I was like, Patting the head, rubbing the belly, and hopping on one foot! Dany is definitely more badass than Emilia is, that’s for sure!
Daenerys Embraces the Throne, Casually Threatens the Yunkai
Episode 7: ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’
That was awesome. Sitting down in the throne, I was thinking in my head, “What would Tyrion do?” This is the first time that Dany gets to be a leader, and she has the power behind her to sit there, put people in their place, and show people what she’s capable of. She’s not screaming commands and just gets to try her hand at being a graceful queen. Having had so many tyrannical men around her treat her badly has left her with the ability to know herself, know how men’s minds work, and handle stuff. She’s been through it all, and it can’t get any worse than killing your own brother, not having any parents, having your love and child die… what else is there? There’s this lovely quote from the book where she says, “Do you think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be a slave? Do you think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be sold?” It’s one of the things that’s really pushing her through. Dany has gotten to a point where she really is doing a lot of good by freeing all these slaves, but she’s going to be taught some hard lessons.
Daenerys Is Insulted by the Vulgar Mero
Episode 8: ‘Second Sons’
It was really hard not to crack up when he’s insulting me because he was very good. It was tough to not just be like, “Are you trying to chat me up?” It took a lot not to just break into a massive smile and start laughing. Again, Dany has the flexibility of wit to see what will impress people the most—catch people off their guard the most—and she’s realized that shouting doesn’t quite do it, so she’s a bit more strategic. This is Dany taking the high road. You can’t argue with her appearing to not care.
Daario Surprises Daenerys While She's Bathing
Episode 8: 'Second Sons'
And later, the brass bathtub is awesome, isn’t it? We were all kind of admiring it. Maybe you can find one in an antique shop somewhere… But again, Dany is being tested. This is Daario trying to have the upper hand since he’s fully clothed, but the thing that he wasn’t counting on was her matching him. The great thing about the dynamic between Dany and Daario is that they match one another intelligence-wise, so she literally grabs the bull by the horns and thinks, This is what you thought I was afraid of? and just casually steps out of the bath. It takes a certain kind of strength—as an actor and as a character! The biggest thing was not falling on my ass. They made the water all gorgeous and milky so it wasn’t completely translucent, but it was nice and slippery. It’s harder than you think to step out of a bath like that and not fall over! I know there was one take where I kind of got out and went, Whoaaa! and just tried to find my core and keep walking.
Daenerys Frees the Yunkai and Addresses Her Army
Episode 10: ‘Mhysa’
This scene was also shot in Ouarzazate, and the main town is a National Heritage Trust site, but then the gate at the front was made by us, so there were so many tourists who you could just hear going, “Oh my God!” as they saw past the gate and realized it was a set, and they were also taking all these pictures thinking that the gate was part of the history of Morocco. Throughout these scenes, it's been Dany trying to one-up the other people she’s been in the scenes with and keep her head above water, but here, the slaves really strip her down and you see the truthful Daenerys responding to it. When she says, “They won’t hurt me, they’re my children,” she really means it. It’s a moment where her maternal side is really at the forefront. And the crowd-surfing was so wonderful to film. I broke into this smile and the director was just like, “Go with it! Go!” It was a very tingly moment. I’ve never crowd-surfed before, so this was my first crowd-surfing moment… Didn’t even have to take my top off! [Laughs]
As told to Marlow Stern.